Thursday, February 19, 2009

BC focuses on clean energy

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: On February 16 British Columbia's lieutenant-governor delivered the throne speech on behalf of the BC Government, led by Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell. The throne speech precedes each new session of the legislature and outlines the government's agenda for the upcoming year. Based on the content of this year's speech, businesses and other organizations promoting the production of Blue Fuel/DME in BC with renewable energy and waste carbon dioxide have every reason feel optimistic. Some of the highlights of the speech that pertain to Blue Fuel are as follows:

Through the Western Climate Initiative and the Climate Registry, we are helping to lead a continental response to global warming that will shape our economic and environmental future. The WCI cap and trade system will reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions and drive new sustainable growth. We are leading the establishment of a new Pacific Coast Collaborative with California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. In March, a first Annual Leaders' Forum in California will launch a new vision for sustainable regional growth focused on clean energy . . .

The BC Government is committed by legislation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 33% by 2020, and fully understands that by producing low-carbon or carbon-neutral fuels, such as Blue Fuel, it will not only achieve this goal, but have a valuable commodity for the WCI cap and trade system. Further, strengthening BC's relationship with huge markets south of the border will generate opportunities to establish customers for Blue Fuel. This is particularly true of California, which has stringent regulations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing air quality. Carbon-neutral Blue Fuel is a solution to both of these problems.

Energy is another core competitive advantage for British Columbia. BC is a low-carbon energy powerhouse. New technologies and the global hunger for clean, low-carbon energy and new sources of traditional energy are putting B.C. in the driver's seat. Even with our commitment to meet 50 per cent of B.C.'s future electricity needs through conservation, more power will be needed to ensure we are electricity self-sufficient by 2016. Electric plug-in vehicles and other technologies aimed at reducing fossil fuel dependency will place new demands on our electricity system. We can meet those demands and create jobs and opportunities for our citizens . . . We can become global leaders in wind, run-of-river, tidal, geothermal, wave, solar and other forms of clean, renewable power . . .

The BC Government now fully recognizes the incredible renewable energy resource base that BC possesses. This was not the case as recently as five years ago, remarkable as that might seem. Five years ago the government was far from fully apprised of the incredible world-class wind resources we have in the northeast, dubbed in the throne speech BC's Northern Energy Corridor. Today it is, which is why wind is the first form of renewable energy listed in the speech. The government is poised to make these hitherto exotic energy streams mainstream.

Despite the current recession that has caused numerous energy-intensive industries in BC to shut down and short-term demand for electricity to fall, the government recognizes that not only does BC need to produce more electricity to become electricity self-sufficient, but that there is a global hunger for clean, low-carbon energy. The government envisages selling clean BC energy to external markets. But selling electricity to external markets is highly problematic because of grid constraints—unless it is converted a liquid fuel. Enter Blue Fuel, which can carry electrical energy efficiently and safely over long distances by pipeline, train—and ship. Which brings us to the following section of the speech:

New investments will be made in carbon sequestration technology. With that policy framework in mind, BC will make the most of its remarkable wealth of natural gas. We can build on our potential to ship clean, liquid natural gas to Asia that will reduce its growing dependency on coal power and dramatically cut greenhouse gases.

Carbon sequestration . . . A wealth of natural gas . . . Shipping liquid natural gas (LNG) to Asia . . . Carbon-neutral Blue Fuel . . . Think of these four phrases as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and try putting them together. A fascinating image emerges.

Let’s start with the natural gas. The BC Government is talking about 960 billion cubic ft of natural gas production in BC per year. That is a staggering amount of natural gas—and an equally staggering amount of carbon dioxide.

Natural gas processor Spectra Energy is already the leading emitter of carbon dioxide in the province. With the ramping up of natural gas production, CO2 emissions from natural gas processing facilities will soar—threatening the government's goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 33%—unless those emissions are sequestered.

Spectra Energy and the BC Government are jointly funding research into what could become world's largest carbon capture and sequestration projects—in BC's Northern Energy Corridor. At present, sequestering carbon is both experimental and expensive. Enter Blue Fuel—again.

Two questions arise: First, why pump the carbon dioxide from natural gas processing in BC into the ground? After all, the process is risky and expensive, and the CO2 can be used to produce an ultra-clean burning fuel. Second, can using the carbon dioxide to produce Blue Fuel be considered a form of sequestration? (“Sequestration Light”, perhaps?) Given that the Blue Fuel derived from the CO2 could supplant coal for power generation, diesel for transportation, and propane for heating and cooking an argument can be made that it comes pretty close. With its ambitious CO2 reduction targets, we have every reason to believe that the government will consider the conversion of CO2 captured from natural gas processing plants into a Blue Fuel feedstock as a form of sequestration and thus help Blue Fuel producers establish markets and commence production.

This brings us to the issue of liquefying natural gas and shipping it to Asia. No question that this can be done, especially since the port of Prince Rupert, just south of the Alaska border, is the closest major port in North America to Asia. But not only can BC ship LNG to Asia, it can also ship Blue Fuel. In fact, shipping Blue Fuel to Asia is far less problematic than shipping LNG, which requires expensive, specially designed cryogenic storage tanks and ships. Shipping Blue Fuel on LPG-type vessels can be done much more economically than shipping LNG.

The goal of a Northeast Transmission Line will be pursued.

This little item in the speech has huge ramifications for the production of Blue Fuel with renewables in BC, particularly wind. The proposed line will be in close proximity to the hundreds of kilometers of world-class wind park sites on ridges that parallel the Rocky Mountains in northeastern BC. Conveniently, these wind park sites are not far from the huge natural gas fields that the government envisages exploiting. Electricity generated at these wind parks can be used to both power the natural gas processing facilities and produce Blue Fuel—using carbon dioxide captured from natural gas processing. Energy synergy at its finest . . .

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